First of all, having a camera and an editing program does not mean someone can (or should) create a show. The art of storytelling is still the most important factor when it comes to producing compelling content, especially for the Web.
The second is to remember that there is a lot of content out there. The most important things to consider in creating distinctive content involve implementing a few simple tactics that can ensure creating quality, professional content for the Web that will stand out. Here are some best practices and some things to avoid when creating your show:
Get in late and get out early. In the short form, it’s important to grab the viewer by the collar–then hold on only as long as absolutely necessary. From a storytelling angle, don’t risk the viewer’s attention span setting up the point–just get to it, and then don’t linger. Let them go and give them an incentive to come back.
Build it, don’t blow it. Get your audience to come back by building interest in the show for the long term. Don’t overload them in one visit as if it is your only shot. Reveal information in a way that allows the viewer to have a takeaway they can retain, while knowing that there is much more where that came from in future episodes.
Audio es muy importante! Audio quality can be one of the greatest separating factors between professionally created content and the rest. Make sure your show is created as if it is bound for exhibition with the world’s greatest sound system–that will ensure a professional audio experience when it is condensed down to 2 small laptop speakers or ear buds.
Produce for the Multi-Screen. Plan for your content to look good on the spectrum of screen sizes out there. The reality of our mobile phone, computer screen, gigantic TV and videogame viewing platforms dictate that it is wise to plan on your show finding homes of various size and image quality.
Things to Avoid
The shaky-shaky camera frame. When creating a show for the small screen, an unstable image can be exponentially accentuated. For example, when playing on a device such as the iPhone, a shaky image can be a disorienting experience for the user. Put the camera on a solid foundation, use fluid motion or use handheld sparingly, unless stylistically necessary. We’ve all seen content that feels like you’re looking through binoculars while on a merry-go-round.
Graphics are important for support information and data–so make sure they can be read when delivered to the smallest destination. It is important to keep screen real estate in mind when moving to the smaller formats, and it may require some repurposing of content to get the desired audience impact. Being unreadable just because the screen shrinks is unacceptable.
It is very important to get the on-screen talent that is best for the project, not just the talent that has a lot of spare time on their hands. The same rules that apply to film and TV apply to the Web. People want to see actors who are better than they are--make sure they are capable of engaging the audience in your desired manner.
If it can be said in 5, don’t say it in 10. People are very good at multi-tasking these days, but it is important to not test their limits. There is a term called “abandon rate” which marks the average point at which people bail on the show. As to the story is crafted, default to brevity. Avoid length in all cases and trim all unnecessary content. Time can be the enemy in this arena.
If you put these tips into action when selecting a videographer and production team you will see a significant return on your pre-production planning and application of your content beyond the Web. In fact, as you explore the elements of what makes great content, you may think to yourself, “I can do that.”
We are living in a golden age of technology democratization that gives talented people access to tools and distribution opportunities unlike ever before. If you decide to give it a shot yourself, it’s up to you to practice the same standards you would expect of someone you hire to handle your project. Whatever direction you choose for your production, give the audience a reason to get excited and return for another visit as soon as you can do it again.
Zach Rener is content director at ON Networks, which distributes original, professionally produced shows over the PC, TV, iPod or iPhone.